ST. GEORGE — A local man with an extensive criminal history spanning more than 15 years appeared for sentencing on four new cases last week as well as a string of probation and parole violations.
2020 booking photo of Joseph Michael Baum, 35, of St. George, appears for sentencing on multiple cases in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, on Oct. 31, 2023 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
The hearing included an intense argument involving the defendant’s probation officer who addressed the court by saying the community needed a “reprieve” from this violent offender who should be sentenced to prison.
Joseph Michael Baum, 35, appeared in 5th District Court for sentencing on multiple cases filed in connection with a string of burglaries and thefts reported in October 2022. Baum pleaded guilty to four third-degree felonies, including one count of burglary, two counts of theft and one count of theft by receiving stolen property.
The remaining charges — third-degree felony theft, two counts of failing to stop at command of law enforcement, interfering with an arresting officer, possession of paraphernalia, DUI, driving on a suspended license and criminal mischief– were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea.
String of cases solved with one arrest
The cases were filed following a pursuit that ended in Baum’s arrest on Oct. 17, 2022, during which officers searched his pickup truck and recovered two air conditioners, a flat-screen TV and other items.
Baum was arrested and transported to jail facing second-degree felony possession of a stolen vehicle and felony evading, along with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and driving on a suspended license – each a misdemeanor. When the case was filed, two misdemeanor evading charges were added, bringing the total to seven charges.
Meanwhile, officers responded to a business on East St. George Boulevard on a burglary reported earlier that day and arrived to learn that a suspect had broken into the business by prying open and damaging a number of doors, leaving the business with an estimated $4,400 worth of damage and stolen merchandise.
Within days of Baum’s arrest, investigators working the burglary were made aware of the property recovered from the pickup truck on Bloomington Drive, and additional charges were added, including felony burglary and theft. He was also charged with one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief for the damage to the property.
A fourth case was filed when Baum was tied to another incident on Bluff Street in St. George that resulted in a third-degree felony charge of theft by receiving stolen property, and in another case filed one week later, the suspect was charged with felony shoplifting for an incident reported at Walmart on Pioneer Road in St. George.
Crime spree of 2020
In addition to the rash of crimes in 2022, the suspect has more than 30 criminal cases and convictions spanning more than a decade across the state, including multiple cases for theft, evading and other felony crimes he was later convicted of in Washington County.
The defendant pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on the bulk of those charges the following year, and what followed was a string of violations over the next year after Baum failed to comply with the terms of his probation.
Several cases were filed in October 2020 — the culmination of an active investigation involving several vehicle thefts reported in the St. George area over a several-week period. One of the incidents involved surveillance footage that showed two men riding a red and white dirt bike – also suspected as stolen – in the area of one of the reported vehicle thefts.
While canvassing in search of the dirt bike, officers spotted the driver riding it and turning into a gas station on Bluff Street. Officers pulled into the parking lot just as two individuals got off the bike and started to walk toward the station. Baum jumped back on the bike and rode off with the officers in pursuit. He was later arrested on a no-bail warrant and was the suspect in several other burglaries and vehicle thefts in the area. He was later charged and convicted of those crimes.
Violations and an extensive criminal history emerge
The many cases, as well as the suspect’s criminal history, was addressed by a parole supervisor Eldon Hamelin, who spoke via video by saying the defendant has been given multiple chances to succeed, including several opportunities at treatment and probation restarts — all of which had failed.
He said the defendant is not only a multi-state offender but a violent one as well. The defendant not only has the 12 cases and 33 charges that have been filed in just the recent cases but a criminal history that includes convictions in Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. That was in addition to dozens of violations filed since 2020, court records revealed.
“The community needs a reprieve from his crimes,” Hamelin said. “This defendant doesn’t need treatment — he needs to go to prison.”
Prosecutor Mark Barlow said that while he didn’t disagree with the parole officer’s assessment, Barlow believed that Baum had a desire to change his life, as stated in the letters the defendant sent to the court. He also said the state was not opposed to the defendant being sentenced to treatment, as long as there was a prison sentence hanging over his head to further motivate Baum to be successful.
Kenneth Combs, Baum’s defense attorney, told the court The Other Side Academy had a bed for his client that would be open on Nov. 7, adding the facility is a residential treatment center that offers a two-year intensive program that must be completed to comply with the courts.
“If my client doesn’t complete the program then he knows he’s going to prison,” Combs said.
District Judge Eric A. Ludlow then suspended the prison terms associated with each of the charges and ordered Baum to complete the residential program. The judge also said the defendant would be placed on three years’ probation, and should he violate any of the terms, however small those violations might be, then the following would take place.
“If there are any violations then you will be going to Utah State Prison forthwith,” Ludlow said.
Baum, who has spent more than 390 days in jail, was ordered to be released into the two-year residential treatment facility.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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